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PROVO — Things didn't start off pretty, but the BYU men's basketball team powered its way to an 81-66 victory over Tennessee State in its first game of the season Friday.
BYU started off as cold from the floor as the outside wintry conditions, failing to connect on a few open looks in the first few minutes.
The missed shots were something BYU coach Dave Rose attributed to the beginning of a new year.
"The first game of the season, everyone comes with a little more excitement," said Rose.
After finishing the first half shooting 22 percent on 3-point attempts, the Cougars came out in the second half and knocked down 60 percent of their 3-pointers, finishing 5-14 for the game.
What was the difference between the first and second half?
"We challenged them to catch the ball deeper in the paint," Rose said. "Tennessee State really pushed (Brandon Davies) out in the first half, and then our spacing is bad. They can bring two guys to double Brandon and still guard our perimeter guys. If Brandon can catch the ball down in the paint, and they want to come help, we'll have guys open on the perimeter with space."
That open space provided opportunities for the perimeter players to make plays and increase the six-point lead that the Cougars took into half time.
"We really just tried to attack them in the second half, and we got some guys involved and we were able to score more points," said sophomore forward Tyler Haws.
When asked if 36-percent 3-point shooting was an acceptable mark going forward, coach Rose expressed comfort with the overall results.
"Well, I'd like to shoot 100 percent," Rose said. "But I thought we took good shots. A couple of them were rushed, but I thought most of them were pretty good shots. Some nights you'll make more than others, but tonight was good."
Coach Rose has the Cougars playing an inside-out offense, and when forward Davies is able to get positioning inside the paint, it should give perimeter players open space outside. BYU will need Matt Carlino, Craig Cusick, Brock Zylstra and Haws to knock down shots from behind the 3-point line when Davies passes out of double teams.
Haws led the team in scoring, making 7-15 from the floor and 8-9 from the free-throw line for 22 points. Although he was not able to convert on either of his 3-point attempts, his teammates were more successful. Brock Zylstra was 2-4, while Agustin Ambrosino, Cory Calvert and Cusick chipped in with one 3-pointer each.
Carlino struggled from distance, missing all three of his attempts from behind the arc. However, Carlino was instrumental in setting his teammates in the second half, penetrating the defense and kicking out to his teammates. Carlino set up two baskets in a row, one by Zylstra and the other by Cusick, by passing the ball out to the perimeter after beating his defender into the key.
Carlino finished one point shy of a double-double, registering nine points and 10 assists in 30 minutes with four turnovers.
Haws spaced the floor well on the night, shooting 46 percent for the game, on par with the 47.8-percent mark he set during the preseason. Haws drew a gasp from the crowd when he missed his third free-throw attempt of the evening, ending his consecutive free throw streak at 50.
"That's kind of disappointing" Haws said. "I don't go up there trying to miss them, but I'll start a new streak I guess."
If the team is able to adjust to the flow of the game, and execute the inside-out system that Rose preaches, the perimeter shooters will help lead the Cougars to victories like tonight throughout the season.
"This was a really good win for our team, and I think it will prove to be a great win before the season is over," Rose said.